Pursuing Pain

‘I’m going to show you what pain is all about,’ joked my delightful young trainer today as she loaded the leg press machine with 230 pounds. By my fifth set of 15 reps I was sweating and making what was likely a horrible grunting sound, but my quads did not hurt per se. I never find weight lifting painful. It often requires extreme effort, as well as the kind of focus that makes thought impossible. I actually love experiencing muscle failure, when I try in vain to perform a motion and the obstinate materiality of my body comes to the forefront. Then my body is an other, alien being. I am never sore until later, though, when I get out of the car and find myself walking like a stiff-legged Frankenstein monster. Even that feels pretty good to me.

Feminist Figure Girl nevertheless involves degrees of pain in venues outside of the gym. Mostly it is the usual lady kind, caused by eyebrow plucking, tight pant wearing, eye lash curling, and so forth, all the things I used to do so rarely. I know that when I have to strut around in four-inch heels, a mandatory part of figure competitions, I will suffer much more. My fused orthoticless feet will radiate pain from the inside out. I have also recently had some unpleasant moments at the chiropractor’s. I had to breathe in a deep and measured way as she pressed on my tendon and pulled on my arm, hoping to lengthen my tight bicep. So far the worst part of this project, however, was (and still is) laser hair removal. ‘Oh don’t be such a pussy,’ several forever smooth readers are now snidely thinking. ‘It doesn’t hurt that much.’ That is correct, when legs or underarms are involved. But have you had a Brazilian? And by that I mean the full monty. Just in case you have not, I will describe it in vivid and perhaps even lurid detail.

A few weeks ago I entered an air conditioned clinic, located in a strip mall. ‘This is not so bad,’ I naively thought, helping myself to a free bran bar, its 5 grams of fat somewhat counteracted by a high fibre content. A petite and apparently teenaged female technician greeted me, asking if I had had the requisite ‘close shave.’ After I assured her of my obedient preparations, I was led into an office with a reclining chair. I then expected to change into a white robe and  fluffy slippers, just like at the spa where I get my microdermabrasion facials, but instead the perky young woman said ‘It’s good that you are wearing a dress because you can just hike it up and take off your panties.’ How fortuitous that I was heading to a cocktail party right after my treatment! I had thought that I might be shy about being naked from the waist down in front of a total stranger but that was not the case. I immediately lifted my dress and removed my gigantic black granny underpants, specially made of a form-fitting material that flattened my gut and raised my ass cheeks beneath the flimsy strapless dress. The technician was unfazed as I dropped them onto the floor with a flourish. Then I donned superstar sun glasses and sat in the chair with one knee bent so that she could start placing the pulsing laser against my lady bits. The effect was like a short sharp shock. No big deal on the area that early modern people label ‘the mound of Venus’ in anatomical treatises published between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries (and I have read a shitload of those my friends). My blase attitude quickly changed, however, when the technician said ‘Now I am going to do the inside of your labia. Just let me know if you need a break.’ How can I describe this sensation? It was like a hot poker applied to my most delicate, my most protected loveliness. And I was paying her to do it. My gasps and fist clenching led the young dominatrix to ask me if she should stop. ‘No no no just keep going,’ I said between my teeth. Just in case any men are reading this account and feeling left out, let me help you to identify with my pre-competition thong-wearability measures. Imagine that a red hot poker is being applied to your testicles, all over them, again and again. No wait. You know that strip of soft flesh between your anus and your balls–the part that could have become your vagina? Now think of it being ironed, just like your Sunday best shirt. How do you like them apples?

I hope I have not disuaded you from becoming a laser hair reduction client because it definitely works. Oh yes it does. But before you rush to your own local strip mall I have one small word of advice, and please take careful note of what I am about to write: Do not even think of participating in an hour-long spin class the next day.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

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